Books read 2020

Books! Best to worst.

Nate Chinen, Playing Changes

Extraordinary essays on jazz and its recent history.

Garth Greenwell, Cleanness

Richly realized senses of dislocation and location.

Andrea Camilleri, The Overnight Kidnapper

Montalbano goodness.

David Deutsch, Something about Infinity

Well-written and thoughtful examination of creative explanations as a powerful source of knowledge and ultimately experience. Dismissals of “theory” as irrelevant in thought or education are shown to be flat wrong. Theories, or explanations of things we don’t understand extrapolated from things we do, turn out to be not only valuable but also the engines of discovery, of new experiences, of the potential for progress. What matters is not the theory itself so much as its quality, which depends the wideness of its reproducibility in a variety of applicable situations.

Georges Simenon, Pietr the Latvian and The Late Monsieur Gallet

Well-made mysteries.

Barbara Cook, Then and Now

Prosaic memoir from one of the greatest American theatre singers.

Mary Beard, How Do We Look

Strange book with an unfathomable private purpose.

Elaine Pagels, Why Religion?

More of a memoir than an inquiry. DNF 

Anonymous, Duchess Goldblatt

I don’t find celebrity culture, real or imagined, interesting or funny. This book felt like it was fueled by NYC presumptions about the virtue of being impressive to the goobers who comprise the anonymous fan bases of famous people. Including Anonymous herself, who was so impressed with Lyle Lovett. Weird, insular, hothouse ideas about media hotness. All of the fun frivolity gets weighted down by earthbound assumptions about fame and media influences — Duchess’s and Lyle Lovett’s. DNF

Rudiger Safranski, Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

Goethe was such an insufferable, entitled youth that I didn’t stick around for his adulthood.

A.O. Scott, Better Living Through Criticism

Was looking for a book that in a neutral way qualifies and clarifies the role of the critic, which this book attempts to do. This is not the book I was looking for.






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